Photo: Malene

I work with language, and within the theories that I use as my framework, the goal is to find out what is common and universal to all languages in the world. We are sort of looking for the atoms of language, and we want to describe these atoms. In a way we are trying to arrive at a periodic table for languages.

An element of this sort, a feature that all languages need, we call "predication". It might sound complicated, but in essence we can think of this element a a kind of hinge. If I say, for instance


I have not, thereby, given you any information about anything in the world. Nor if I say


But using this fine hinge that all languages posess, and link these two together, I get


Now I have given you a piece of information about something that you might not know, and then you may act upon this new knowledge. Without this hinge we could not use language to transfer information, and thus this hinge is a basic element, an atom, in natural human language.

To find these basic elements it is not enough to know and study Norwegian. I have to compare all the languages I know, and some that I do not know, to discover how these basic elements behave. And I need to coopoerate with researchers who are experts on languages that I don't know, so we may compare these basic elements across languages.

This means that even though I live on a farm far in the countryside in provincial Norway, I still get to meet the entire world through my work. The world comes to us, especially to my university in Trondheim (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU), but it also happens sometimes that good colleagues become good friends and visit me at our farm.

Leonie is one of these. Leonie is a Dutch linguist who I have known for a number of years, and even long before that, I used to read what she wrote about her research. Because this is one very smart and interesting lady.

Here is Leonie visiting me at Eide, wearing her newly acquired fair isle cardigan, knit by me. I also made one for myself. Photo: Hans

Leonie is extremely fond of animals. At home she has a big dog (Roos) and she takes every opportunity to visit farms and domesticated animals in the Netherlands. So you might imagine what was on her mind already at her first day of visiting me at Eide farm.

"Can we go and meet the cows?" Leonie asks. "MEET the cows?!" I reply. "They are inside for the winter, Jon Gunnar has taken them all inside the barn." "Yes, but can we go into the barn and meet them?" Leonie asks. I give a long sigh. I just washed my hair! There is no way you can spend time in a cow barn with live cows in it and not have the smell getting stuck in your hair and your clothes. "Does it have to be right now? Can't it wait until the morning? I just washed my hair!" I object.

"But I don't mind going there by myself," Leonie says. "I don't mind, and I am not scared." Well, it is not that I am scared either -- except for the prospect of cow smell in my newly washed hair. And it is not like the cows will harm her in any way. Demonstrating my total lack of the skills becoming of a good hostess, I leave it to Leonie to visit the barn by herself.

Later Leonie describes her visit to the cow stall in an almost poetic way. It is quite dark, the cows are very close to each other, and close to the entrance. The cows are facing each other in two rows, and Leonie feels a bit like an intruder. The cows are calm, quiet, and close. As she enters, the cows turn their heads in her direction and try to establish eye contact. They have clearly noticed her arrival.

Photo: Malene

The cows look at her with their big brown eyes, and one of them (she cannot tell which one) makes a deep sound: "mmmmmmm". The farmer is not there, and Leonie decides to come back a bit later. The next time she enters, one of the cows makes exactly the same sound as before. The cows only make this sound when she enters the barn, not later, even if she stays in the barn for a while.

(This is a later recording, the cow Beatrice is making the sound, and Jon Gunnar made the recording).

Leonie is pondering. Could it be that she has just had the experience of being greeted by a cow?

But cows don't greet humans, do they? Only humans greet each other with these special rituals. Also, Leonie has been studying Dutch cows and how they interact with their owners. And she is pretty certain that she has never heard a similar sound from the Dutch cows. The Dutch farms are obviously usually much bigger than the farm at Eide, with a lot more cows and typically a much more peripheral relation between the cows and their caretakers. But still.

This needs a more thorough investigation. "Kristin," Leonie asks me the same night. "If a cow makes this long, deep mmmm-sound when you enter the barn, do you attach any particular meaning to that sound?"

"I guess," I respond. "To me it means 'come here and let me look at you a bit closer, there you are, here I am.'" But it is also a message to the rest of the cows, that the event of me entering is not scary, nothing to be alarmed about." Leonie obviously finds this interpretation very interesting. For some reason. I would think this would be obvious to anyone raised on a farm.

Slightly cubistic version of my office at the Department of language and literature at NTNU.

The next day we are back in my office at the university. "Too bad," Leonie says, "that there is nobody but you in this department who knows anything about cows. Then we could have checked if anyone else had the same inerpretation as you." I burst out in laughter. "Half of the people working with Scandinavian langauges in this department are farmers", I am giggling. "I hardly think it will be a problem to acquire another informant."

We call on Professor Stian, who was raised on a dairy farm, just like me. Stian gets the same question, out of the blue. It is quite obvious that Professor Stian is a bit puzzled by the question, and he allows himself a characteristic little puff of laughter. "Uhhhhh, well..." he roames around in his mind. "To me that sound means that the cow has seen you, "you are there, I am here, kind of." The cow is not afraid or anything like that, it is a sort of emphatic sound, friendly and curious."

My jaw drops. It sounds as if Stian and I have agreed on this interpretation on beforehand, since this rendering is in part word for word the same. But we have not agreed on anything, we have not discussed it. And yet we agree completely on what this sound means. So when the cows we know are greeting us, we both know that this is exactly what they do. Without giving it much thought.

But Leonie has given it a great deal of thought. She starts comparing the communication she observes between cows and their caretakers on small farms like the Eide farm, and that taking place on huge, more factory-like farms, typical for the Netherlands and other European countries. A bit later in the fall she visits such a big farm, with more than 150 dairy cows. She asks the farmer on that farm what his interpretation is of this mmmmmm-sound. "I have never heard such a sound," he says.

Still, the picture is a bit more complicated than merely the size of the farm. Leonie finds that most calves try to greet their caretakers this way. In the Netherlands it is not uncommon that cow stalls have one or more open walls. Norwegian cow barns, like the one at Eide, have four closed walls, because of the climate. When cows are enclosed (that is, not outside, or in a barn with open walls), they make this sound much more, preferably to people they know, and sometimes they will give this sound even upon hearing the sound of the tractor, if the driver is someone they like and trust.

If you pay attention you can easily find other Norwegian farmers who claim to understand what cows express with different types of sounds, not just greetings. Like Svein Arild Averøy, who says that "There is a moo for anything. I can tell whether the sound signifies that one of the cows is in heat, if there si a calf being born, if there is a water leakage or whether one of the cows is lose and the others are telling on her."

A screenshot from the magazine "Norwegian Agriculture". The farmer Svein Arild Aae says cows have different types of moos for different things they want to express. "There is a moo for anything."

Why is it so important to establish that cows greet people? A greeting is usually an expression of respect. When cows show us respect, and greet us, it becomes more obvious that they themselves deserve our respect. Unfortunately, not all cows receive this respect today. This is one reason, among many, why this reserch is important.

The reserach on the communication between animals and humans is a field of research which is only in its beginning, but it is a field which will become increasingly more important in the future. The new generation of young people, which means eventually also researchers of this generation, are very much committed to animal rights and how we respect them.

Greta Thunberg wants to save the planet, and is also committed to animal rights.

Therefore I am a bit proud that one important step in this research was taken on this farm, on Eide, not very long ago. With our cows, on our farm.

Of course, one might object that it is not very strange that Norwegians communicate with their cows. They are fellow inhabitants of the farm, the dairy cows in the barn have all been born here, and had their early years in the pen outside with the other calves. We have known every cow for a long time.

People used to say that in Lierne people treated shep mostly like other people, which is why the sheep talked the local dialect until the sixties. But I wonder if we might also look into the following claim from our American friends here, about a fact that possibly could ease the communication between people and cows regarding the mmmm-sound explicitly.

I want to emphasize that this was a joke.

Also, the mmm-sound that cows make is very different from the one Norwegians make. Just listen:

Still --- it is a fun observation to make.


We try to get together for dinner every Friday. And since Friday is Friday, the obvious choice is our new national Friday-dish: Tacos. As always, there is a lively discussion over dinner.

Malene used to work at Rosendal Barony for many years, and a lot of the time she was tending to the sheep. "Maybe that is an idea? To get a handful of sheep?" I suggest. Jon Gunnar, the eldest son, is totally dismissive to the idea. There will never be one single sheep on his farm!

"It is a pity," I say. "After all, we do own a mountain just beside the farm, seeemingly very suited for a couple of sheep to roam around.

Stone age sheep, for instance, might be able to stand their ground against the lynx, which sometimes roams around in the same mountain."

Photo: Malene

"You own a mountain?" Malene is eager to know. "And where is this mountain?" Hans is a bit surprised by the question, and I point at Eidsfjellet (Eide mountain, which, btw, is called house mountain on the old local maps over the area).

Hand drawn map over Eide, with Eide mountain/ House mountain. The drawing is made by a late neighbour, "Reksterkallen".

"It is right over there!" Malene is really surprised as she glances up at Eide mountain. "Aaaaaah", she says, in a very condescending tone. "So THAT is "the mountain". I see. Back home that would barely qualify as a hill."

All right! All right! Eide mountain is 156 meters high. Melderskin , the mountain right behind The Barony Rosendal, is 1426 meters high. Almost ten times the height of our "mountain".

Rosendal Barony, Malene's old workplace. Photo: Malene.

Hill, mountain, whatever! No matter what, Eide mountain is very well suited for hiking. For a real westerner it might not be steep enough, but on the other hand, it is right outside our house.

And there is no doubt that Malene takes advantage of the Eide mountain as her preferred everyday hiking ground, on every occasion. For picking berries, for photo safaris, and for exercise.

One day Malene is out hiking in "Eide hill", she discovers an old grass field. A secret grass field? It stretches out over many square meters, and someone, a long time ago, found it worthwhile to grow grass on this field. Maybe one hundred years ago? Now it is overgrown with birches and alder, but it is quite evident that once this was a grassy field able to feed several cows and other farm animals.

The whole family seizes the opportunity to take a look, young and not-so-young. Even Malene's parents, who are visiting for a week. We strive up the hill, all the way to the secret meadow. Djeez-Louise, this is steep. Rebecca (8) loudly informs us that she regrets her part in this hike, and her grandmother (involuntarily) mimicks the sounds of the leaky bellows of an old accordion. How the heck can anyone come up with the idea to cultivate a piece of land at this particular place? Did they transport the animals up here, or did they carry the grass back down? How come we have never heard about this meadow? As far as we can remember, Gudmund has never mentioned it.

Foto: Hans

We are standing in the green half-light and looking around, quite astonished. This is one big chunk of land! There can be no doubt that Malene is right, this is a meadow, a cultivated piece of land. This is all so very strange!

How can we restore this to what it used to be? Is there any point?

What is the best way to travel back and forth to this meadow? An ATV (fourwheel)? On foot? Should we start a project to build a road, so we might eventually reach it with a tractor? is this possible and realistic? And ( I am just throwing this in there): perhaps we have enough projects for now?

Also: who on earth decided to cultivate this piece of land? When might that have happened? Let us do some thorough reading of my father-in-law Gudmund's history of the farm.

Gudmund never fails us. Under the heading "Cottage Allotments on the Eide farm" we find the story of the cotter Andreas Henriksen Halbrendt. And this is an exciting story!

On the sea shore South-East of the Eide farm there was a cottage allotment inhabited by Andreas Henriksen Halbrendt. He was a sailor who was born in Førde in Sogn and Fjordane and he was married to Olina Johnsdatter from Agdenes. The allotment had a small piece of land capable of feeding some sheep and some goats.

He was a very skilled fisherman, but he also sailed with bigger boats. He cultivated a small piece of land far up in the hillside of Eide mountain, and people used to tell stories about him carrying manure in a homemade rücksack up to this meadow. People in the village were not used to this type of transport, which is why Hallbrendt's efforts were at the center of attention.

Andreas Hallbrendt is probably the only person in our village who ever dug for gold. There is a small round hill just beside the house where he lived, and he was convinced that this was an old burial gound (it has the shape of a viking burial ground). This hill is now registered and taken under laws of special protection."

Andreas Hallbrendt died in November 1915 with no descendants. The meadow he must have cultivated about one hundred years ago, or a little more, maybe 120 years ago.

Really a working guy, this Andreas. Not worried at all to walk up the steepest hills, obviously. But bear in mind that this was also a westerner. Maybe 120 years ago, he too sniffed condescendingly about the people of flatland who boasted a mountain which was, in reality, a mole pile.

It is very strange indeed that more than one hundred years after Andreas Halbrendt put down his rücksack and quit his transport of grass from the secret meadow, another westerner unearths it. Moreover, Einar, our youngest son, just moved to Sogndal to take up a permanent position as a teacher. That is just some very few miles from Førde, to the East. It feels like we are making a gobelin on this farm, embroidering back and forth between pictures, times and signs.

Andreas Henrik Henriksen Halbrendt, from now on we will remember your name, for sure. And 120 years ago, perhaps you we standing in this exact spot, resting after an especially hard day of clearing land, and gazing at the fjord, down from the modest mountain, Eide mountain. Just like we do today. And you looked at it, and you saw that is was good. I bet you were thinking that "This is really beautiful".

Because it is. It was and it is.

Photo: Malene

The building structures: Main building

We do not really know when the main building on Eid (local/oral/original name) or Eide (Danish spelling) was erected. However, we do have some clues.

The purchase contract of January 16, 1759 describes in detail the demarcation lines and all values included as Mette Christine Høyer, the widow of Austrått's owner Søren Dass, sells the farms Eide and Furunes (which both up to that point were part of the Austrått estate), with the salmon fishing rights and the island Brattingen, to "the royal bailiff over Fosen bailiwick, Johan Rüberg" for 600 riksdaler.

Old map over Stjørnfjorden, Eidsvatnet (the Eide lake) is clearly visible in the middle of the map, Eide bay is drawn just North of the N in SKIØREN.

The puchase contract states that the Furunes farm has been deserted for a long time, unlike Eide (which always had inhabitants) and it says that "...and no houses on either of these farms". This part is actually a bit ambigous, but the contract is otherwise very detailed regarding the values and assets of the farm, so one would think the buildings would at least be mentioned, had they been worth mentioning.

The magistrate Peder Sivertsen Barup also lived on Eid(e) for twenty years; he rented the farm from the Austrått estate from 1723 to 1743. It is reasonable to think that even the magistrate had to live stately. However, 16 years later the contract of purchase transferring the Eide/Furunes estate from Mette Høyer (Austrått's owner) to the magistrate's successor as the inhabitant of the farm, bailiff Johan Rüberg, there is no mention of the buildings.

Therefore one might reason that bailiff Rüberg, who is now the owner of the Eide estate (unlike magistrate Barup, who never owned the farm), decides to erect some stately buildings on the farm. At some point he sells his farm to a second magistrate, Ove Schjelderup von Hadeln, magistrate of Fosen from 1764 to 1800. Rüberg dies in 1773. Some time between 1764 and 1773 the farm is trasferred to magistrate von Hadeln, and it is not too farfetched to assume that he finishes the building project. And very likely: with a vengeance.

I am allowing a small leap of faith here, but to me it seems likely that von Hadeln was tempted to reach into the cookie jar, i.e. the tax money he collected, to finish his grand estate. Von Hadeln was suspended from his office in 1792 because of several remarks about the way he ran his office, and he was declared bankrupt before he died in 1800. In 1801 the farm is foreclosed (and bought by the forefather of the current owners).

The picture shows the family Von Hadeln's coat of arms.

We can also reasonably assume that the main building was finished by 1776. One rather artistic metal weathervane still exists at the farm with von hadeln's initials (OSvH, Ove Schjelderup von Hadeln) and the year 1776. We take this to signify the finished status of the main building.

This weathervane still tells its story from the roof top of Nordstua.

We have had this sign mounted on the western wall of Nordstua displaying the same year as the weathervane. The weathervane is small and not very visble, the sign however is very much so.

In 1821 the farm was split into two parts (cf. the post about Johan Arnt), and one half of the buildings were allotted to each of the farms. Some of the structures were thus moved from East farm to West farm (specifically from Nergården to Øvergården).

There is a whole lot we do not know about how the buildings used to look and how big they used to be.

But there are also a couple of things we do know. Everything built for human accomodation in this period is classified as a "trønderlån". This is an effect of the capacity of the Norwegian saw mills, they could only accomodate logs 6 meters long. later saw mills can accomodate 7 meter long logs, and the houses accordingly get one meter wider.

The main building on Eid was still rather special. We have pictures from 1901 and later showing that the main building at this time boasts two wings: It was build in an L-shape.

The picture is taken from East, and the road clearly goes through the yard. The main building is clearly L-shaped.

This picture displays how the road cuts through the yard, South of the L-shaped main building. The road was moved north of the main building in 1920, equipped with a new bridge. Gabriel builds himself a small house in 1924 north of this new road, thus the road still runs between some of the buildings on the farm. Gabriel's small house and the black smithy are at this point both north of the new road (cf. the painting below).

Painting by local artist Paul Grav, motif approx. 1930
This picture is taken from northwest, from Midtigården, possibly shortly before the renovation and remodelling of the building in 1947. We see the L-shaped main building to the right. To the left you can see the little house that Gabriel had built in 1924, which Borghild lived in, and that Kristin and Hans and their two little sons lived in from 1984 to 1986, when they built a new house at the location of the old smithy. Their third son, Einar, born in 1988, was born after they moved into their new house (they moved into this house just before Christmas in 1986).

Entry from "Norwegian estate" revealing a great deal of important facts about the buildings and rebuildings of the farm, e.g. the renovation in 1948 and many other pivotal pieces of information.

We also find interesting figures over the amount of people and animals living on the farm.

The picture is taken from a rather unusual angle, from down by the river delta. Compare to the painting by Paul Grav above, displaying the farm from a similar angle.

As mentioned above, in 1947-1948 the main building undergoes a thorough transformation, and several of the buildings are altered and moved. The north wing of the main building is partly moved (Nordstua), one section is demolished, and the remainder of the building is extended and made longer and wider. The roof is also lifted so the ridge is still in center on the roof top, However, the chimneys are no longer centered at this ridge, instead they remain a bit to the south of the ridge. Nordstua (yellow building on the painting below) now becomes a separete annex which is rented out to various families as accomodation for the next couple of decades.

Panting by Allan Grav ca. 1957.

The storehouse is also moved, from the river's edge to a different location in the yard. This storehouse is later demolished (ca. 1979-1980) to give way to a new tractor stall.

The little entrance on the south wall shown on the two pictures to the left from 1978 is torn down and replaced by a slightly bigger structure in 2001, this is used as the main entrance at that point.

The south wall of the main building after the replacement of the small entrance structure with one which was a bit bigger. This extension today houses a modern utility room (laundry), but also a shower room and wardrobes for work clothes (no odeurs escape the modern techology where fans extract the air from the cabinets).

As we started renovating the main building we wanted to replace the guest entrance at the north wall. This entrance has been used altogether about one dozen times for the last fourty years, each time for very distinguished guests.

To us this did not legitimize the immense waste of space for useless hallways resulting from this arrangement. We wanted to utilize the building structure much more efficiently. Accordingly, we submitted an application to the relevant auhtorities to demolish this small entrance and to erect a new structure for the main entrance, two stories high and also including a basement.

As mentioned above, the main buiding (like several other buildings on the farm) is registered as an entity of cultural heritage since 1978 (cf. the pictures above) and accordingly the county governor's office of cultural heritage perservation has a say in matters like ours. The official representative came for a thorough inspection (he even scrutinized the beams in the attic), and then made his official recommendation: You should construct two smaller entrance structures on the south wall, mimicking the features from 1901, and also move Nordstua back to the vicinity of the north wall, partially recreating the old L-shape of the old main building.

We considered this to be an impossible solution; this arrangement would imply an outline almost as impractical as the current one. The main entrance (or the TWO entrances!) would face the yard rather than the public road (introvert rather than extrovert!). Also, the authority for public roads had extended us the dispensation from ordinary regulations and allowed us to build the extension we wanted, but there was no way they would allow the placement of a cultural heritage building (the core of Nordstua possibly stems from the 17th century) this close to a public road. And worse: We would not want them to.

Another round of appealing, applying, providing new information and new arguments. The local authorities' views on these matters were more or less identical to our own. The result of this expensive renovation should be a modern building suited to house a modern family, not a museal structure solely suited for exhibitions and guided tours. At least not as its only function.

This is the north wall with the new extension. Planking and some windows are still missing on this picture. New pictures will come eventually, and the post might be updated.

Johan Arnt Eide

Johan Arnt or Johan-Arnt is not a very common name in Norway today, and only about 100 guys are currently bearers of this name. According to name reseracher Ivar Utne this name is almost exclusively used in the Trøndelag region, usually not elsewhere in Norway. One thing is for sure, there were a whole bunch of Johan-Arnts on the Eide farm(s) in the 19th century. It is very easy to get the different Johan-Arnts mixed up.

Johan Arnt is thus a common name in Norway and especially in Trøndelag in those days, and some name researchers invoke reference to the great German theologist Johan Arendt. On the Eide farm however I guess it is more relevant that Jon and Arnt are both common names in the family upon their arrival to the village, and if you want to combine these two names into one, both Arnt-Jon and Jon-Arnt are impossible to pronounce. But if you insert a tiny syllable HA into Jon, Johan-Arnt becomes a rather pronouncable name. At least to people in Trøndelag.

Jon Arntsen Føll from Rissa, who bought the farm in 1801, had three children, and he split the Eide farm between these three. Since there were one boy and two girls, and since a brother's part is also the lion's share (i.e. twice as big as the sister part), the farm was split into two equal parts first (west farm and east farm) with the dividing line following the creek Eidselva. While the son (whose name was also Jon) got the "east farm", the two daughters Anne and Beret had to split the remaining half, west farm, between them.

Of course this is not accurate, since both of the sisters were married and therefore, in reality, their husbands had one quarter each of the original farm.

The son, Jon Jonsen, married Ingeborg and had nine children, five boys and four girls. Two of the sons (Anders and Gabriel) drowned as young men, in 1857, while partaking in a fishing fleet outside the island of Smøla. Then there are the four daughters (Sigrid, Marit, Anne and Johanna) and three sons left; Bengt, Hans (the youngest), and the eldest son Johan Arnt.

Johan Arnt is not only the eldest son, he is senior to all his sibilings, as he was born in 1811. However, as his father Jon Jonsen wants to hand the farm over to his children in 1861, there is no mention that Johan Arnt receives any part of the farm. Whereas Bengt gets the lands north of the creek and builds himself a house on Hare Hill, the youngest son, Hans, ends up inheriting the main farm on Eide. The daughters, or rather, the sons-in-law, are also allowed some appropriate pieces of land. But Johan Arnt, now fifty years old, evidently ended up inheriting nothing.

It seems that Johan Arnt rather early got tired of waiting to take over his father's farm, because already twenty years before this he bought the neighbouring farm on Eide (Midtigården, the middle farm) from his aunt Anne Jonsdatter Eide (who was a widow at this point and therefore got to decide for herself what to do with her land). So maybe Johan Arnt's father reckoned that Johan Arnt was already living comfortably. Another possible explanation is a conflict between father and son. We will probably never know.

What we do know, is that Johan Arnt never got to take over his father's farm, although he was the eldest son. Instead, as mentioned, he bought the neighbouring farm, married Helene who died in childbirth, remarried, this time to Anne Margrete and had seven children by her, i.a. Gabriel, who was the fourth of these seven children.

Hans, the youngest son who took over the main farm, had three children by his wife Beret (again, quite confusing that so many people had the same name, but I promise, he did not marry his aunt). Two daughters, Johanna and Gurina, and the eldest son, Johan Arnt. Oh yes, again Johan Arnt is the name of the eldest son.

Johan Arnt the second must have been quite awaited, since he had his own decorated bed ("Skuvseng") when he was two years old. Alternatively, we have dechiffered the text wrong and this is really Johan Arnt the first's bed, but the letters seem to spell J. A. H. S. E (Johan Arnt Hans’ Sønn Eide), not J. A. J. S. E (Johan Arnt Jons Sønn Eide). Otherwise the bed would have been better suited to the first Johan Arnt, timewise.

This decorated bed was given to us by Hallstein Sørmyr, because he thought that Johan Arnt's bed should be returned to the farm. He had taken it into custody awaiting a time when someone at the Eide farm would appreciate the true value of these old artefacts and not see them as potential fire wood only. We thank Hallstein deeply for trusting us with this old antique bed which used to belong to Johan Arnt (either the first or more probably the seond). Thank you, Hallstein.

Johan Arnt the second dies when he is 21 (1862 - 1883). So this Johan Arnt also never gets to take over the farm. His sister Johanna instead takes over the farm, after marrying Gabriel next door. This means that even though the first Johan Arnt never got to take over his father's farm, at least his son Gabriel becomes the rightful owner of the farm from 1897 to 1925, when the next generation is ready to step up.

This chest, a "Lofot chest", used for personal luggage at the yearly seasonal fishing in Lofoten), beyond doubt belonging to Johan Arnt the second, I managed to beg away from my father-in-law, Gudmund, who used it for storing grass seeds. He was very sceptical for me to schlepp this old piece of bug-eaten furniture into our new house, and asked "So where do I store my grass seeds now?" But he was a kind soul and found somewhere else to store his grass seeds, and he gave me the chest, from the goodness of his heart.

And what is the next generation? Lo and behold, Gabriel follows the tradition and names his firstborn son Johan Arnt. He also has two daughters (Anna Margrete and Helga Marie) and another son, Hans, who is the youngest of the four siblings. Hans is born in 1899 and loses his mother in 1902, when Johanna dies. The father marries again two years later, to money, as the rumers will have it, to Margrete Riber. There is somewhat of a myth in the family and the village about the "Ribe-money", evidently an bottomless treasure. Unfortunately, we have not been able to locate this treasure, but we will certainly keep you posted.

Johan Arnt is born in 1890 and is thus fourteen years old when the father remarries, and Hans is five. One can easily imagine that Margrete establishes a close and warm relationship with the little Hans, whereas Johan Arnt probably is like most teenagers: a lot harder to get close to. When Johan Arnt is old enough, twenty years or so, he leaves for the US to earn money to buy his father'a farm. In those days the American salaries are about four times the Norwegian ones, even though Norway too experiences much improved living conditions. Johan Arnt works at different factories, among others, a saw mill, but he also serves as a volunteer in the American army.

This is a picture of Johan Arnt in his uniform, at the point of his writing he is already out of the army and "has his old position back". On the back of this picture (that we happened to find in the attic in "kårstua") there is no date or year, but it is quite obvious that the young boy is dreadfully homesick and misses his family.

Poor Johan Arnt, he writes home to his aunt and uncle and begs them to send him a few words. He rarely ever hears anything from home.

In America Johan Arnt eventually meets the beatiful Gunhild and marries her. Now is the time to return to Norway to take over his farm. But this is easier said than done.

In the family's chronicles Margrete, the stepmother, is responsible for putting a stop to Johan Arnt's plan. Johan Arnt is adviced to go back to his new homeland, the young Hans is the one who should and will inherit the farm (notice how history repeats itself). The young bride, Gunhild, spends the entire stay in her tiny room upstairs, crying her eyes out. The young couple feels extremely unwelcome, and after a short while they return to the US.

Gunhild and Johan Arnt have two children, Asbjørn Gabriel (Osborne) and Olga Johanna. Johan Arnt revisits Eide a few times and during his stays he spends his days fishing, preferably in solitude, on the beautiful fjord. He dies in 1972, and after this we hear little and nothing from his family. Until 1984, when we suddenly find an advertisment in the newspaper Adressa, from Olga's daughter Kristen. However, this is a story for later.

It seems that the tradition of naming the eldest son on the Eide farm Johan Arnt does not bring very much luck in the enterprise of actually getting to take over the farm. Instead the youngest sibling, Hans, takes over the farm in two cases, while Johan Arnt the second dies as a young boy.

In the generations after this one has evaded this destiny by naming the eldest boy something entirely different: Gudmund, Hans and Jon Gunnar. And for these three generations, the eldest boy has taken over and run the farm, in a timely and orderly fashion.


Gudmund Eide (1995): Gårdshistorie (with the help of Tor Eide).

Einar Eide's recent research into the farm's history

The slated roof

The original slated roof on the "trønderlån" (a building type very common in the middle of Norway).

The old roof on the main building (the trønderlån) was a slated roof; classical slates from Alta in Northern Norway, designet to last for eternity. We were not planning to replace the slates on the Southern side, but here on the Northern side most of the slates had to come off, and we even needed more slates, because of the extension that we built instead of this square box with a balcony on top, placed there sometimes in the fourties (cf. the painting on the front page, cf. also below).

The old building was originally built in an L-shape (cf. the post about the buildings and structures), and when this L-wing was demolished during the same renovation, the valuable Alta-slates were of course carefully stacked and stored. One might think therefore that there would be ample reserves of slates. But as luck would have it, our eldest son at the age of five was gifted a small, but truly efficient hammer by his grandfather.

Where is one to try out one's new hammer? Can you imagine how brittle these slates really are when placed in a stack like this? Do you understand how merciless and highly efficient a five-year-old can be when left alone for a few minutes without any bothersome adults around?

«To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.» Mark Twain.

This treasure was therefore lost to us, and we did not have enough slates. Also, if we were to keep the old slated roof, all the slates on the Northern side had to come off and be thoroughly steamed before we could reuse them. There was a lot of moss and guano stuck to the slates after decades and decades. If we were to buy more slates, they would be old and used too, and we would obviously have to steam all of the "new" slates as well. It sounded like a terrible job. Also, it would be very expensive, more so than a brand new roof with modern roof tiles, since we needed to get hold of an expert to lay down the slates. All this would also take a lot of time.

And when do we get the necessary stretch of nice weather with no precipitation, here where we live?

Also, if we decided to remove all the slates on the northern side of the roof, the wooden part of the roof would have to be replaced as well. This would also take a lot of time, but it would not be very smart to skip this step and place the slates on top of old woodwork in less than minty condition. We do want this roof to last.

A lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of money.

Those are all good reasons to consider other solutions and to rather replace the slated roof with Dutch roof tiles. On the other hand: to be frank, all of us really wanted to keep the precious slated roof. It is really beautiful, it is old and original, and if restored correctly, it can easily last for a hundred years or more.

The people of the farm finally decided. Let's do it!

So first of all the old slates have to come off.

Hans is working hard to take the old slates off of the roof without breaking any slates.
This would be a rather high fall. You can clearly see how much dirt, moss and guano is on the slates.

Peeling off the slates, one by one, is time-consuming work, and you have to be very careful. If you are not, or do things in the wrong order, the brittle edges and the nicks where the nails attch the slates to the roof will break off. This would make that slate useless. As mentioned, it is a far drop down, so you can easily drop a slate which will then shatter on the ground. It is also a very demanding job with a lot of responsibility.

The slates must then be brought down from the roof without breaking, and carefully placed on a suited surface to be steamed, inch by inch. This has to be done very thoroughly, but very lightly, since otherwise the slates will break and become useless. A lot of slates in the first stack did not make it (it took us a while to master the right technique).

Before and after. Kristin is steaming the slates, inch by inch, removing centuries worth of moss, guano and dirt.

Luckily we already had an appropriate steamer on the farm.

This work was very time-consuming, and it took us every night for many weeks to finish the stacks. These slates have a lot of sides and edges, and all of them have to be cleaned and steamed. As already said, if you are not very careful you can easily damage the slate.

It might seem as if we put the slates directly on the ground, but they are safely resing on a sheet of waterproof plywood. Placing the slates directly on the ground would lead to a lot of dirt being whirled up.

Hans managed to buy some more used slates from a local farmer who was replacing his own slated roof with tiles. After Kristin and Hans had steamed all the slates on almost all the stacks, the slate expert roofer informed us that the slates were of the wrong kind. 75% of the additional slates were Otta-slates, not Alta-slates. Besides the fact that Otta-skifer is thicker, heavier, and more rouchly cut, the nicks are also placed in a different position. So we had a lot of clean, but useless slates.

A rahter long, frustrated and desperate silence occurred in the aftermath of this devastating piece of information.

Now, Hans is relatively optimistic by nature and has an uncanning ability to consider the glass half full. So he declared that "this means that we have slates for the roof at Nordstua (the yellow house on the painting), when we are renovating that house."

The roof slate expert acquired some more use slates from a different supplier, and here we go, start up the steam machine again.

Eventually we had enough clean slates to cover the roof on the northern side, including the extension. And then the slates must be restacked, and the stacks brought back up on the scaffolding, preferably withouth breaking one single slate.

I think we all have to agree that this is an incredibly beatiful roof, very mcuh suitable for a trønderlån. What do you think? There are still some whhite spots of guano here and there, but these are so deeply entrenched in the slate that to remove these, one would have to damage the slate.

Photo: Malene

Actually we should have had a celebration, because the roof is finally finished. Let us try to have a party in the near future!